One of the most hopeful demographic and economic trends we have seen in putting together ExxonMobil’s annual Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040 is the expansion around the world of the middle class.
The numbers reflecting this change are extraordinary.
At the turn of the century, about 1.3 billion people could have been described as middle class. The global population at the time was about 6 billion, so that was nearly a quarter of the planet’s population, most of whom resided in the advanced economies of Europe and the Americas.
By 2030, however, the world will be a very different place. We anticipate the number of people classified as middle class will near 5 billion – well more than half the expected 2030 global population of about 8.5 billion people. Much of that expansion occurs in the dynamic economies of the Asia Pacific region, with significant growth in Africa and Latin America as well.
Of course, these aren’t just numbers and statistics, they’re real people – men, women, and children making their way out of poverty all over the planet to lead richer, healthier, and more productive lives marked by improved education and broader opportunities.
Though unquestionably good news, it does present its own set of challenges. Among the most pressing will be to meet the increase in energy demand this middle-class expansion will both require and drive, as more people expect and gain access to air-conditioned homes, cars, and appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and smartphones.
We expect global energy demand will rise by about 25 percent over the next quarter century, though energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are only expected to rise by 10 percent, even as global GDP doubles. That’s thanks to efficiency gains as well as broad shifts to less carbon-intensive energy sources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, and renewables. In fact, we anticipate that global emissions will peak during the 2030s and begin to decline.
The changes the world is set to experience in the coming years are both fascinating and promising. Dive into our Energy Outlook to learn more.
William Colton is ExxonMobil’s vice president for corporate strategic planning. In the coming weeks he and his colleagues will highlight different features from ExxonMobil’s 2017 Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040.